NORC borders expand

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

In March 2004, the Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) started implementing the recommendations it received from two years of research and began programming. The St. Louis Jewish Light was there when they began their first transportation of residents to the grocery store. Over the past two years, NORC has been perfecting their product and delivering services in that small concentrated community of less than one square mile bounded by Lindbergh on the east, Olive on the south, just north of the J Millstone campus to Cricket Hill Drive and up Schuetz to the Queen Anne subdivision on the west.

Now they are building on their success and their model by increasing those boundaries. The newly expanded NORC boundaries add approximately two miles to the original NORC with a large concentration of older adults living in pockets throughout the expansion area. The new boundary goes as far west as the east side of Craig Road and includes one particular area which is south of Olive: Coeur de Royale and Sarah Lane where the population is identified as 60% age 65 and older.

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“We have identified through the census the potential of 1700 participants in the new expansion area,” said NORC manager, Karen Berry-Elbert. More than 170 residents in the new area attended the kick-off held at Craig School. Many local dignitaries were present along with staff to inform residents about the new program.

With the federal grant available through 2006, the new residents will have available all the same services offered to original NORC residents. These include: educational programs; cultural, health and wellness programs; supermarket trips; cultural and social bus outings to museums and theatres and restaurants; advocacy groups; story telling groups and a visiting nurse who comes in once a month for blood pressure screenings. There is a computer and printer with internet access at the Gathering Place in the Jewish Community Center Millstone Campus.

The NORC program has grown substantially and adapted since that first trip to the grocery store. “What we found ultimately is that residents had already figured out how to take care of those essential kinds of trips to the supermarket and the doctor,” said Berry-Elbert. “Residents turn to family, neighbors or use transportation through OATS or CORE to get to those essential places.” It’s the non-essential trips residents are looking for to add to their quality of life.

“It’s the trips to the cultural institutions and the ability to go out to eat in groups at restaurants, the general shopping, to take bus trips to visit a variety of places around St. Louis — those are the transportation needs that were not being met,” Berry-Elbert said. The buses are full for those programs. “While socialization may not sound like it is an important component. In my mind it is the most important. If you are offering someone the opportunity to get out of their house and do something that is enjoyable and interact with other people it just lifts their whole spirit.”

There are many other opportunities for NORC residents. The Jewish Community Center offers a reduced membership rate for NORC residents who are not current members of the J with selected membership privileges available at the reduced rate. There are services offered through Jewish Family and Children’s Services including volunteer money management, and referrals for home modifications and occupational therapy assessments. NORC residents recently received their new NORC Advantage Cards which offers them discounts from participating Creve Coeur merchants.

Some new programs introduced in 2006 include two different exercise programs a week: chair exercise and chair yoga. “We offer transportation to these two programs which have grown by leaps and bounds,” said Berry-Elbert. “This is clearly something the residents want.” For 2006 only, they are offering intimate opportunities to eat meals together. “We are offering kosher meals and residents host the meal in their homes. It is real an opportunity to invite new neighbors and help create a greater awareness of NORC and bring new people into the fold.” The meals for five to twelve people are delivered from Simon Kohn’s.

Another program available for 2006 is a homemaker errand service. NORC has tried to find a way to help people who need one or two hours a week of light housekeeping or maybe a quick trip to the drugstore or bank. “We are trying to see how we can accommodate some people who need to have a little bit of assistance with homemaking. If one or two hours a week works, that is an interesting way to help people stay in their own homes and make their lives just a little bit easier,” Berry-Elbert said.

“All we hear from our residents is how happy they are that we are here for them,” Berry-Elbert said. “We have people who call us to say they are moving to St. Louis or moving from another community in the area and they want to know where the NORC boundaries are because they want to live in the NORC. We know of several families who have followed through with that and moved into the NORC wherever they were coming from because they wanted to be a part of this wonderful umbrella of support.”

The NORC is always looking for volunteers. Many of the residents themselves are volunteers. There are always opportunities for individuals, sisterhoods, men’s clubs, youth groups and the community at large. For more information on NORC or volunteer opportunities call Karen Berry-Elbert at 314-442-3859.